Understanding nipple discharge and colostrum

Understanding nipple discharge and colostrum
December 27 10:27 2016

Colostrum (Nipple Discharge)

During pregnancy a woman’s body prepares itself to receive and take care of the baby once it is born. Parts of these preparations include developing the breasts and producing milk for the baby to feed on after birth. As such it is normal to notice some breast or nipple discharge during and after pregnancy. The nipple discharge you notice when you are pregnant is mostly caused by Colostrum and we will discuss what this colostrum is and why it is important for the baby below.

When you notice nipple discharge during pregnancy or just the days after giving birth, chances are you are witnessing the secretion of Colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by your baby meant to provide your baby with essential nutrients during the first days of life. Colostrum is secreted by the nipples and will eventually disappear once the breast begins making milk a few days after birth and nursing.

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Since the nipples secrete colostrum it is possible and quiet normal to experience leakage throughout pregnancy and in the days that follow pregnancy. Colostrum is produced towards the end of the first semester and or in the beginning of the second trimester. It is almost around the time when you notice an increase in the size of your breasts. It can start leaking as soon as it is produced and continue throughout the whole pregnancy. Sometimes the leak is trigger by stimulation as that of arousal or breast massage. There are some women who can have their colostrum leak stimulated by the sound of a baby crying.

 

How to spot colostrum

Colostrum changes color and texture as the pregnancy progresses and childbirth nears. At first it looks thick with a yellow like color. As pregnancy progresses it changes to colorless. It is more visible towards the final stretch of pregnancy as the body prepares to receive the baby. That is when you experience the most leaking.

 

What is the use of colostrum?

Newborns generally have a lot of developing to go through within the first few days of life. The digestive system is very small and yet to develop, the immunity system is almost inexistent and the metabolic processes are at overdrive. Colostrum provides a concentration of nutrients needed for the rapid growth of the baby during the first days of life as well as immunoglobulin’s from the mother to protect the baby from contraction infections. In addition colostrum has a laxative effect so initiate the baby’s first bowel movement, a process required for the baby to have their first poo, which is the release of meconium. The release of meconium is important, as it is how the system clears itself from excess bilirubin thereby preventing a condition known as neonatal jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and epithelial layers)

 

Colostrum is rich in the following essential nutrients and vitamins:

  • Proteins
  • Vitamin A
  • Sodium Chloride

It is also rich in antibodies and immunoglobulin taken form the mothers immunity system and passed on to the baby. This process is called passive immunity; the baby basically relies on the mother’s immunity until it has developed its own immunity system.

 

Other causes of Nipple Discharge

There are other things that can cause nipple discharge during and after pregnancy. Colostrum is the major cause but sometimes nipple discharge may be caused by:

  • Infections
  • Friction on the nipples caused by underwear and t-shirts
  • Massage and or breast movement
  • Breast cancer
  • Hypothyroidism

 

If you think your nipple discharge is not related to colostrum then you should see a doctor. None colostrum related nipple discharge will generally have the any or some of the following characteristics:

  • Discharge only on one breast, rarely two of them
  • The discharge is tainted by blood or pus
  • Spontaneous discharge outside of stimulation

 

Nipple discharge is common during pregnancy and is nothing to worry about unless you notice the above-mentioned characteristics.

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